Delivering More with Less
For some years, the ethos of business has been to do more with less; to deliver more value, but at less cost. You’ve probably expected it from your suppliers and those from whom you buy almost everything, whether it’s connected to your business or not.
The larger customers will tell their suppliers to give them a price that’s equivalent to cost alone, and then to get their profits from someone else; otherwise they’ll take all of their business to a competitor.
And that means that you’re always on the lookout for ways to minimize your own expenses.
Some companies do this by keeping salaries and wages as low as possible, forgetting the fact that without people to do the work there would be no company at all. (If you’re going to cut financial corners, don’t do it with your staff.)
But what if there was another way? What if you could cut your costs without penalizing your employees? What if you could more for less? Would that interest you?
The short answer on how to do this is to strip the expense of doing business out of your company.
Now you may think that you’ve done this already. You may be convinced that you’ve pared all waste from your business and that you’re as lean as you can be. Maybe you have and perhaps you are; but you shouldn’t assume that. If others in your industry operate at a lower cost, then short of depriving your employees of what they need to do the job and justly compensating them for doing so, there’s still fat to be trimmed.
A good place to start is in your own office. What have you changed about the way that you work that has reduced the cost of doing business? Do you still drive a company car or fly first or business class at the firm’s expense? These things aren’t wrong. They are simply examples.
You could drive your own car, for example, and claim mileage according to the Inland Revenue rates instead. You could still fly first or business class, but pay the difference between them and economy fare.
If you really put your mind to it, then you can probably come up with a long list of ways to cut those expenses that you alone incur. And there’s no reason why those same reductions can’t be applied to your other directors and senior personnel. The idea that “rank has its privileges” went out of fashion a long time ago. You’re all in it together.
What about the company itself? When you went through your cost-cutting exercise the last time, how much did you change the internal structure of the company? To think of this another way, how much freedom did you give your employees to think and to experiment so that they were free to act differently?
You see, if you want the benefits of change, then you have to give people freedom. Rigidity of policies and procedures will crush innovation and invention, both of which you need if you’re going to discover efficiencies that have been previously overlooked.
And you have to get past this idea that any part of “the way you’ve always done it” is sacred. Look. Your competitors – the ones that are doing more than you with less than you – don’t have this problem. Recognize it. Deal with it.
Those are the central issues to the problem. They are what are standing in your way. They are what prevent you from doing more with less.
Fundamentally, it’s your unwillingness to own the problem that all such efficiencies must start with you and form the pattern of behaviour throughout your organization.
You must strive for greater flexibility, reduced hierarchy (which is largely an attitude), and more creativity.
Give your people permission to experiment, to look for ways to do what you do better. Don’t assume that it won’t work because you tried it once. Times change. It could have been the wrong person or the wrong set of circumstances on the last occasion. It could be that this new person has another approach that when added to it will make it work.
It’s up to you to ensure that they have your full support for trying again. You’ll never make any improvements unless you do.